In the 1990s, pubs installed satellite TV, Friday-night karaoke and alcopops. In the 2010s, walls are stripped to bare brick, church hall pews replace comfy padded seats, and the fridges are crammed with craft beers. This current trend is not a bad thing, and the stretch of the City Road between Old Street and Islington has long been crying out for some urban chic where you can also whet your whistle. Here, you can do it with a selection of brews from Kernel, Redchurch and London Fields, plus iconic beers from overseas breweries.
Along with banishing lampshades and installing bentwood, a gastropub-style menu completes an appealing set-up. No east London bar is complete without a piece of the Deep South, in this case a fish po’boy – a kind of fish finger butty. Peruvian? That box is ticked with lomo saltado, a dish of marinated beef with rice. Both were decent for pub food, but not polished enough to make this a dining destination.
We arrived at the Royal Star on one of the coldest days of the year, on the promise of a roaring wood fire. But the fire wasn’t lit, the dining area felt arctic, and we left soon after we lost feeling in our fingers. Next time, guys, light up those logs.